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Running the Numbers on the Best Chrismas Carols Ever


by Stephen Becker 19 Dec 2008

Lone Spring Arts Adult Vocal Artists We get press releases all the time here at Art&Seek touting this show or that product. And every once in a while, a line in one really catches my attention. Like this one: “Using statistical analysis of 3,400 individual songs from 170 separate Christmas CDs, Lone Spring Arts determined […]

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Lone Spring Arts Adult Vocal Artists

We get press releases all the time here at Art&Seek touting this show or that product. And every once in a while, a line in one really catches my attention. Like this one:

“Using statistical analysis of 3,400 individual songs from 170 separate Christmas CDs, Lone Spring Arts determined the 12 most popular Christmas carols.”

Something about “statistical analysis” and “Christmas carols” struck me as funny. So I e-mailed Dr. Presley Mock about the CD. By day, Dr. Mock is an ear, nose and throat surgeon and chief of staff at Texas Institute for Surgery at Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas. And in his off time, he’s the co-founder and general manager of Lone Spring Arts, a production company dedicated to preserving music of the past. The 12 Carols of Christmas is its newest project.

I e-mailed Dr. Mock about putting together the CD, and this is what he had to say:

Can you tell me about the statistical method for analyzing the 3,400 songs?

MOCK: We identified 170 Christmas CDs, selected at random, listed on Web sites such as Amazon.com, ebay and CDBaby.com. Using an Excel spreadsheet, we entered the 3,400 individual song listings on these 170 separate Christmas CDs. Then, we asked our computer to determine the 12 most popular songs from this Excel spreadsheet (the 12 most frequently listed).

Do you think that these are the 12 songs that would have made it if you were taking a guess before the analysis?
MOCK: The results of our survey were not surprising. For the most part, these are the 12 songs we would have guessed would appear on the list. But it was heartbreaking to read what ranked just below the 12 most popular songs: “Lo! How a Rose,” “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear,” “In Dulci Jubilo,” “Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day,” etc. So, we decided to include them, in an abbreviated form. Our friend, Milo Deering, created guitar “fantasies” to honor the beautiful songs that didn’t make it into the “Top 12.” And those songs that did make it into the “Top 12” are the very best, indeed.

Was there a song that came up in your analysis that you couldn’t use for some reason?

MOCK: It’s important to remember that we were interested in determining the 12 most popular “carols,” not the most popular Christmas songs. There were several songs that we could not use: “White Christmas,” “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” However, these are not carols, by definition. Therefore, there was no song that came up in our analysis (of carols) that we couldn’t use for any reason. Christmas caroling is an oral tradition that has been passed from generation to generation. Its exact origins are unknown. Latin Nativity, carols first appeared four to five hundred years after the birth of Christ. They began as folk songs and were indelibly associated with Christmas by the 13th Century, when Francis of Assisi introduced carols into the formal worship service of the church during a Christmas Midnight Mass. All ancient carols, such as the 12 that appear on our CD, are in the public domain.

With so many Christmas CDs out there, what do you think makes this one unique?
The vast number of Christmas CDs available today seem to have one thing in common: only half of the songs on each CD are recognizable as traditional Christmas music. The other half of each CD often contains obscure music that the artist wants to “introduce” to the listener. So, we began to wonder: where is the Christmas CD that contains the 12 songs we want to hear, presented in a straight-forward way, sung by Christmas carolers? Where is the Christmas CD that contains the songs we want to hear (and none that we don’t)? It was nowhere to be found. So, we decided to create it ourselves.

If you are interested in picking up the CD, you can buy it on cdbaby.com and atexasstyle.com.

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